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Levin woman sentenced for starving horse to death

Media release

18 July 2016

Levin woman sentenced for starving horse to death

A Levin woman allowed a horse in her care to slowly starve to death and is implicated in the death of another horse.

Te Ara Smiler, 31, pleaded guilty in the Levin District Court to a charge of ill treatment of an animal causing the animal to suffer unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress. She was sentenced to 120 hours of community work, ordered to pay veterinarian costs of $492.50, and disqualified for 5 years from owning or exercising authority over horses.

“The SPCA sees far too many unnecessary deaths of animals caused by neglect,” says Ric Odom, CEO of SPCA NZ.

“Domesticated animals like horses, dogs, and cats are completely dependent on us for their survival. Horses in particular are vulnerable to starvation when confined to poor quality grazing. Unable to escape, they face a lingering, painful death.”

The case began on 26 August 2015 an SPCA inspector, acting upon information received, visited the defendant’s property in Manakau, which is located between Levin and Otaki. The Inspector found a dark brown gelded male horse called ‘Rangi’ in very thin body condition and unable to stand.

Rangi was confined to a very narrow strip of land that was largely mud and contained no suitable edible forage such as grass, hay, or haylage. A nearby macrocarpa shelterbelt and boxthorn hedge showed signs of having been browsed by the horse. Both of these plants are unpalatable to horses, which are only likely to eat them if deprived of palatable feed. The only source of water on the property was a water container with approximately 10cm of discoloured, unpalatable water.

The inspector also found a smouldering area covered with sheets of corrugated iron in an enclosed paddock at the rear of the property. Under the iron was a pile of ashes, several pieces of bone, and part of a horse’s hoof. This horse, known as ‘Pappa’ had gone down the day before, been shot, and the body burnt.

Veterinary examination, faecal tests, and blood tests performed on Rangi revealed that he was in very thin body condition with ribs, spine, hip, and shoulder bones all clearly visible. His heart and respiratory rate were significantly elevated, indicating either severe cardiovascular compromise or severe pain. Rangi was also making audible grunt sounds, which is a clear indicator of pain.

The veterinarian recommended euthanasia due to the poor prognosis and concerns that any attempts to treat the horse would only prolong its suffering. The veterinarian concluded that the horse’s poor condition and collapsed state was most likely caused by a combination of factors, including lack of sufficient food, parasites, and gastric inflammation.

“There is no doubt that the defendant’s failure to meet her core obligations to provide for the needs of her horses, and ensure treatment in times of injury or illness, resulted in the horses suffering unnecessary pain and distress,” says Mr Odom.

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